THE EAST ANGLIAN HARDCORE TOUR (AKA THE TOUR THAT NEARLY DIDN’T HAPPEN!) (WORDS JAMES DOMESTIC)
A tour comprising three bands from the East Anglian region (Ipswich, Sudbury, Bury St Edmunds broadly speaking) – how good would that be? This scene got a bit of a write up in U.S. Punk bible, Maximum RocknRoll back in March 2013 (issue #358 if you’re hankering for a back issue) so it seemed about time for that a few of the protagonists to join forces in spreading the Punk of the region a little way round the country. Of course, there are a whole host of bands associated with the Suffolk/Essex borders scene – many of them great bands too, but this is about the EAHC Tour so check out that MRR feature for more details. Anyway, this whole thing stemmed from a drunken suggestion (guilty as charged!) at a VOLUNTEERS/THE DOMESTICS/CASUAL NAUSEA gig in a small DIY space in the aforementioned Bury St Edmunds, where a plan was hatched to do a four date ‘home’ leg around East Anglia, have a week off and then do another four ‘away’ dates …but it wasn’t all plain sailing.
Firstly, Ed from THE DOMESTICS and CASUAL NAUSEA (‘Punk Scenes’: so incestuous!) developed really bad pains in his shoulder all the way down to his hand. The first finger on his fretting hand was barely functioning at all, making playing guitar excruciating for him. I had just developed a massively painful repetitive strain injury from my shoulders to hands on BOTH sides (no doubt from working on computers for the last 11 or so years) and plantar fasciitis in both feet and was doing the rounds between hospitals, GPs, occupational health etc. Neither of us are fully recovered as I write this a week into November 2014. So basically CASUAL NAUSEA had an injured member and THE DOMESTICS had two! Fuck! The worst of it was that Ed was going to be driving one of the tour vehicles (we used three cars in the end after weighing up our options) but by the ‘away’ leg was unable to do so for any length of time. So yeah, after the home leg it looked as if the away leg may have to be cancelled. None of us wanted to do that. It had taken ages to organise and we were all keen to get out there and play together but it just looked doubtful…then Towely from VOLUNTEERS said he’d drive Ed’s car and saved the day – what a bloody legend! Anyway, on with the report…
VOLUNTEERS : Sam, Jay, Towley and John (and for one gig, Dave)
THE DOMESTICS: James (me!),Rhodes, Ted Mint, Ed Ache and Simon
CASUAL NAUSEA: Zoe, Simon (again!), Briggs, Shawn and Ed Ache (again!)
THURSDAY 18 SEPTEMBER - The Loft, PJ McGinty's, Ipswich
First date is in Ipswich (where members of CASUAL NAUSEA live and which is about 20 miles from where four fifths of THE DOMESTICS live, which is about 30 minutes away from VOLUNTEERS’ hometown of Bury St Edmunds). Everyone worked today and most of us have to work tomorrow. I got lumbered with a job in London on Friday which means I have to be up at 5.20am. Fuck. Still, it means I finish a bit early so will be back in Suffolk in plenty of time for tomorrow’s gig, which is ok I guess. Just the three EAHC bands tonight. Everyone’s easing into it a bit; Eds’ shoulder is clearly giving him pain already, which isn’t a good sign. THE DOMESTICS go on first – for one reason or another we haven’t played together since Rebellion back at the start of August so are a bit concerned we won’t remember any of the songs. That worry is unfounded and I think we do ourselves justice. VOLUNTEERS have a few long-time fans come out for them and shit gets energetic with sweat and bodies flying around. For a Thursday night this ain’t bad at all and a solid starter to the tour. Being a Thursday the turnout ain’t amazing but everyone has a good night and enough comes in through the door to cover fuel so mission accomplished.
FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER - North Street Tavern, Sudbury
Playing at The North Street Tavern, a ten minute walk from my house tonight which means no bother. Me and Lu (my partner) walk to town carrying a small amount of merch between us. We can both drink and it’s a free entry gig so neither of us have to drive OR sit on the door – hassle free! We’ve played here maybe half a dozen times over the past couple of years. It’s not really a punk pub, just a small market town boozer with football and Carlsberg. When we put a gig on there, as we have tonight, it drags some punks out of the woodwork and some of the regulars who aren’t normally into this stuff get into it too. The pub probably do quite well over the bar as by all accounts our gigs make for a busy Friday. Anyway, everyone plays well, people are into it with a small but enthusiastic pit (there isn’t room for a larger one!) and a touch of crowd surfing. More drinking ensues. Some of us end up in the Wetherspoons next door. All good. Off to Norwich tomorrow…
SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER - The Blueberry, Norwich
Lu doesn’t come to all our gigs but she does turn out for most of the local ones and to her eternal credit often drives where necessary – i.e. ‘cos I want a drink or on this occasion ‘cos it’s a long drive for me with my hands in this state (and I’d like a drink too!). Tonight is the three EAHC bands plus JACKALS and DEVIATED INSTINCT who are on some anniversary tour for one for their albums. DEVIATED INSTINCT are one of those bands that made their name around a similar time to loads of the Brit-Core bands that I still love but for some reason I never really got very far into checking them out so I’m looking forward to this! All three EAHC bands have played Norwich before but I don’t think any of us had ever played The Blueberry. Not a bad pub with a wide, low stage and Kirin Ichiban on draught. Wallop! Anyway, I get a Kirin in and a coffee for Lu and set up the Kibou Records distro. Got some of the ADHD E.P.s that Peabrain put out; the green 2" singles with six bands doing 10-second songs. Got ten in the distro and sold five of them before a single band had played – people love a novelty!! As far as I’m aware it’s a genuine record-breaker (call Roy Castle…oh, y’can’t…well not without a medium). I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever sold so much stuff off the distro at a gig – besides the 2"s, 7"s, LPs, tapes and CDs were (relatively speaking) flying out!
Anyway, I digress. Back to the gig. Casual Nausea play first and play a blinder. Whenever we play after CASUAL (which is quite often as it happens) I always hope that Simon’s going to have enough energy left after his frontman stint to be able to play drums for us at his usual speed and force – a worry that’s usually unfounded. Anyway, I’ve really started to notice over these three nights how good a rhythm section Briggs and Shawn have become – really locked in – and you’d never be able to tell Shawn had never played drums before CASUAL! It’s a joy to watch (and that ain’t just the Kirin – and not much food today – talking!). We play next and some folk get into it and tell us so afterwards. I mean, people are here for local boys JACKALS and the legendary DEVIATED INSTINCT (arguably the inventors of crust), so we’re just glad some people are dancing and getting down. If memory serves JACKALS play next and do what JACKALS do – about 20 minutes full on. Seen these boys a few times – they don’t seem as insanely loud as they have been the last couple of times I’ve seen them and actually that’s a blessing. Twin vocal attack, punishing riffs… it really does feel like an assault. Grabbed some copies of the ‘No Solution’ 12" (on Hardware Records) for the distro. I already had a copy and knew it was a banger! Good stuff.
VOLUNTEERS are, as always, bloody faultless. Slow, heavy, groovy riffs mixed with hyper-speed blast sections. The songs get better with every hearing – ‘Froze’ from the recent ‘Without Kibou There is Nothing Volume 3’ compilation 7" (which we’re on too) makes me lose myself in that sludgy riff – sooooo good! I couldn’t be happier that THE DOMESTICS are putting out a split 7" with them in 2015. It’s all recorded and the artwork’s done, just waiting on label stuff to happen. To a certain number of East Anglian Punks, these guys are legendary. Interesting facts: Singer, Jay, runs the extreme sports shop, Hardcore Hobbies, in Bury St Edmunds and drummer, Sam, used to be in John Peel favourites, JACOB’S MOUSE back in the day.
DEVIATED INSTINCT, after all my hopes, don’t do a lot for me. Don’t get me wrong, the drummer is a fucking beast behind the kit and they seemed like nice guys but it all just seems so slow after what’s gone before. I’ve had quite a bit of Kirin and a vegan Samosa of some kind (it’s a hunt sabs benefit and there’s vegan food for sale. Apparently a decent amount of money is raised for the sabs, which is good news) and need something faster…
I’ve been corresponding with Gaz from Suspect Device fanzine for some time but have never actually met the bloke in the flesh - but that changed tonight! What a top fella. Been reading SD for years and so cool to find that one of the pair behind it is as nice a fella as you could hope to meet. Good ol’ chinwag with him. Anyway, it was a fuckin’ good night, funds were raised, laughs were had, booze was consumed… and we had to stop a couple of times on the way home so I could throw up at the side of the road… bloody Kirin!!!! My missus is a saint… Rhodes snoring in the back, me stopping to chuck up… and she provided ‘car snacks’. She’s a keeper!
SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER - The Corner House, Cambridge
Cambridge tonight. THE DOMESTICS have only played Cambridge twice; once with a jangly indie band who nearly shat themselves when we played (haha! I really don’t think they were expecting that!) and once at Strawberry Fair where we were last minute shoe-in after a festival we were supposed to be playing in Southend was cancelled. They didn’t even get our name right on the signs when we got there (and we never got a bigger dressing room than the puppets either!). I was quite negative about playing thinking we’d fuckin’ bomb to a park full of hippies… I couldn’t have been more wrong – a bit of pit action livened everyone up (it’d been a mellow stage until we played) and security had to pull some old dear out of the way for her own safety. Mr T from Lights Go Out ‘zine got it on film – type ‘The Domestics White Male and Ignorant Strawberry Fair’ into youtube and you should find it. Pretty funny! Anyway, it seems we’re fairly cursed when it comes to Cambridge. We’ve been offered quite a few gigs there over the past couple of years but there’s always a date conflict which means we can’t do it. Hopefully more in 2015.
Anyway, as usual, I digress. Yeah, this was a Sunday night but I don’t think any of us were prepared for what a low turnout this was going to yield. Sometimes these things just happen. Ed’s arm was really hurting by now and that made the turnout of a dozen or so particularly galling. I’d twisted my hand picking up a merch box I shouldn’t have in my condition so I was in extra pain too after being really careful the past few nights. No fuel money for anyone (Gungle who’d put it on – he’s a lovely bloke – had to pay the pub £50 to use the place which is mental. It’s bringing people through the door that otherwise wouldn’t have been there, even if it was only a dozen or so plus 13 band members. How many were they going to get in there on a Sunday night normally?). Everyone put on their happy faces as much as possible and played cracking sets despite the less than favourable circumstances and realised how much fun the away leg was probably going to be in a week’s time… once we got everything sorted (see intro!)
THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER - Red Lion, Bristol
I pick Simon up from the other side of Ipswich and bring him to my place in Sudbury. Before long Rhodes and Ed show up and then a car load of VOLUNTEERS. Where’s Mint? I call him. He got the time wrong and left work later than he should have. He works on Mint Time; no point fretting. It’s a summery day so we all sprawl about the driveway chatting and working out the best way to pack the three cars we’re taking while we wait. Mint arrives eventually and we head off…
Laughs aplenty when coming out of some service station (piss stop/beer stop) when an elderly lady (she must’ve been eighty) calls over in a posh voice, "I like your t-shirt! Brainshit!" (I am of course wearing a t-shirt bearing the moniker of the Beds-based BRAINSHIT). "Cheers!" I reply. Reference to this incident is made throughout the next few days. Maybe you had to be there but it’s making me chuckle as I type this sentence.
Uh-oh. This ain’t a good start! Me, Mint, Rhodes and Simon are in the first car-full to arrive at The Red Lion in Bristol. Both THE DOMESTICS and CASUAL NAUSEA have played Bristol before but only CASUAL at this particular venue. Apparently when CASUAL played here last the gig had been double-booked with a dub reggae night, which apparently worked out quite well by all accounts, and tonight is a similar fiasco in that the gig is double-booked with an open mic night. The promoter, Matty, isn’t here yet (he’s on a megabus from London where he’s studying). I tell the barman that there are three bands coming in three vehicles, each of which has travelled about 180 miles and that the gig’s been booked for months (showing him the events page on Facebook). After another talk with the pub Manager (who claims to know nothing about the gig) Matty shows and is able to show her the whole email thread on his phone where the date was booked. Fuck off open mic. Punks win!
Anyway, attendance suffers a bit as a lot of people who would’ve probably been there went to the OFF! gig in town instead (I guess they come through less often than we do). Anyway there are still enough people to make it a decent night. Ian Upsettah (AKA Ian Tagnut) from ATTERKOP/RIOT SKA RECORDS is in attendance and sorts out the soundman who fucks off and leaves him to it – cheers Ian! Rich from FUK comes down and buys me a pint of the strangest tasting beer I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a LOT of different beers), Pete from 2 Sick Monkeys comes down (and, it later transpires, hitchhikes home – a not inconsiderable distance. What a fuckin’ legend). A super-young Bristol band called SKINNERS open up and are really fuckin’ good. Their name is mentioned a few times over the next few days. They’re going to be on a 14 band comp 7" with us in the New Year called ‘Haiku Fucks’.
Obviously a party of 13 people is a lot for an individual to put up for the night. VOLUNTEERS stay with some relative of Sam’s; CASUAL stay with Simon’s brother and me, Mint and Rhodes wing it, ending up with three separate offers at the end of the night (hey, we’re nice guys!). We go, with Matty, to Liam (AKA Bird Plane)’s place as this seems like the option that will cause the least disruption for the host. Both of those fellas are in THE MIGRAINES, check ‘em out! There was no guarantee for this date unfortunately – it was one of those ‘percentage of the bar takings’ deals (I took the booking knowing this so my bad. If the OFF! gig hadn’t been on we’d have been ok I’m sure – fuckin’ Keith Morris!!!!) so we didn’t get what we needed cash-wise. Luckily we make what we need on the rest of the dates so it all pans out in the end.
I’m accused by some Scottish hippy of wearing ‘ironic trousers’, because "you bought them in a shop!". This is pretty bewildering – I mean quite a lot of things are bought in shops, right? Later on Ed tells me that she thought I had an anarchy symbol printed on my combats and that she’d thought it was ironic that a shop would sell something with an anarchy symbol on it (which, fair play, I can see that). In fact it’s a patch, sewn on by my own fair hand, of Japanese legends GAUZE. Yeah, I guess the letters G, A, U, Z and E are arranged in the shape of such a symbol so an easy mistake to make if you don’t know your Japanese hardcore I guess. I imagine she was more into psych-trance and The Levellers, some tree-hugging festi shit anyway.
Sit up and drink beer and eat chips with Bird Plane and Matty for a bit then crash out. Us three wander round Bristol for a bit in the morning and find a café for breakfast and then meet up with the other parties at a service station before heading to Manchester.
FRIDAY 3 OCTOBER - Kraak Gallery, Manchester
It’s Friday so we head north to lovely Manchester where Andy and Bev at TNS Records are putting on tonight’s gig at Kraak Gallery. THE DOMESTICS have played Manchester quite a bit over the last couple of years due to our relationship with TNS Records (they’re putting out our ‘Routine & Ritual’ album on CD and are one of the four labels collaborating on the vinyl version) but haven’t played at this particular place before. It’s a bit swanky looking; playing some cheesy lounge-jazz while we’re loading in and milling about. I’m trying to pace myself on the booze as we’re headlining tonight…I know it won’t last though. We’re pretty on the ball tonight – it was a tight, fun set. VOLUNTEERS and CASUAL both play great sets too as do locals RISING STRIKE; we get fed, paid what we need, sell a little merch and then ensues a confusing game of ‘who’s staying where?’ which is resolved by walking up the road to Gullivers for beers. THE DOMESTICS have played upstairs here a couple of times (there are stickers on the bog roll holder from the first time we played in Manchester to prove it!) and it’s not a bad little boozer. The whole of the large ‘snug’ (half a dozen tables set off to the side of the main bar) is taken up with Punks chatting and boozing. I have a good old chat with Richard Cubesville who’s a top geezer that I always like to catch up with when we’re up there – you should check out his zine if you haven’t already. One of my firm favourites. He says THE DOMESTICS are "the new Ripcord". Can’t quite see it myself but I’ll take it as compliment nonetheless.
Anyway Simon falls asleep under one of the tables; the staff ain’t too keen on that so we decide to move on. Many of us to the offy and then back to another Manchester buddy’s house (Matt from REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN) where we drink, smoke and let Matt serenade us on the banjo (!). Rhodes and Mint get dragged to some terrible rock club called ‘Satan’s’ that apparently plays a lot of PAPA ROACH (sounds fucking horrible) by Rachel and are ‘rescued’ by Andy TNS/Psychotronic and Fizzy later (before they got lost and had nowhere to stay). Apparently many shapes were thrown in many directions.
SATURDAY 4 OCTOBER - The Lughole, Sheffield
Equipment needs collecting from another part of town (I won’t bore you with the details, I can barely remember myself) but before we head off towards the tram, our genial host treats us to a full-on acapella version of O.D.B. and Kellis’ ‘Baby I Got Your Money’. Word perfect as far as I could tell and with dance moves to match. Then once on the tram Matt rises from his seat proclaiming that it’s nice to have a sing-song on a tram and launches into a top-of-the-lungs version of Celine Dion’s ‘Think Twice’, walking dramatically up and down the carriage like he’s playing a stadium. We were all pissing ourselves. Other passengers looked a little more uneasy. If most people did something like this I’d think what an attention-seeking, show-off wanker but it’s just not like that with Matt; this stuff just seems as natural as breathing for him. If he fancies singing a song on a tram he just does it. I bet he does this on the tram on his own! He’s a fuckin’ legend that lad. Anyway, after a short break we all get the giggles again as he launches into a bit of Tom Jones. Jay videos some it on his phone so we can show the others later. Mr Woods, we salute you!
Sheffield tonight so not too far to drive. Last time we drove across Snake Pass (the road across the Penines) it was by a hungover tiger. THE DOMESTICS had been doing some dates with CASUAL NAUSEA earlier in the year and whilst CASUAL had sensibly gone to the ‘quiet house’ after the Liverpool gig (with CODE BREAK and BOYCOTT THE BAPTIST), me, Rhodes and Mint had gone back to the ‘party house’, arriving to find BOYCOTT THE BAPTIST in drag answering the door. Anyway, it was a very messy night that involved us getting our faces painted by the hostess. Me and Rhodes washed ours off the next morning; Mint kept his tiger face on for the rest of the tour - and he was driving so got some funny looks to say the least. After the first day I don’t think any of the rest of us even noticed it. It was quite weird seeing him next week without it.
Anyway, tonight’s gig is at The Lughole, a really cool DIY space. OFF! are continuing their campaign to ruin the EAHC tour by playing at The Leadmill tonight. This is cleverly countered by having the Lughole gig start after the OFF! gig has finished – genius! Me, Rhodes, Mint, Briggs, Jay, Sam and Towley all decide to go to the OFF! gig as it’s only a few minutes’ walk from The Lughole. CEREBRAL BALLZY support and seem a bit contrived and, well, a bit shit to be honest. Something doesn’t smell right here, it all seems a bit fake. The singer looks like he has a personal trainer but is chucking beer about, acting wasted and giving it the ‘junkie chills’ all through the set – somehow it seems a bit false (later I speak to someone who knows them a bit and semi-confirmed as much). Our party all says the same about CB but maybe we’re all just cynics. OFF! were great though. I hate the fact that they’re on über-hipster label, VICE (with all that stands for), but y’know, trading on past glories or not, the early CIRCLE JERKS/BLACK FLAG tunes they pump out are really fuckin’ good. Conflicted! UPDATE: Someone flagged up an article in Vice with a photo of me and Mint from the DEVIATED INSTINCT gig mentioned earlier – does that make me a hipster? I hate that mag.
Anyway, back to the gig…the place is pretty full and I meet some people who’ve travelled from further afield (Gateshead and somewhere else) just to see THE DOMESTICS, which is pretty fucking amazing! Been drinking for a number of hours before we play. It’s good from what I can remember. People said it was good but I was a bit out of it by then. Can’t remember much about any of the sets really except that fun was had and by the time VOLUNTEERS play I’m well and truly shitted, spending quite a bit of time making a nuisance of myself onstage with them. It’s a messy night all round with people joyfully skidding through beer puddles down the front and being picked up like babies (I don’t think I dreamt that bit). Really great day/night though. I’d play the Lughole again any day. If only every venue you could play on the DIY punk ‘circuit’ was as cool as this!
Find out that local, Miff (whose house – along with his lovely partner, Leah, and their very accommodating housemate - THE DOMESTICS and CASUAL NAUSEA stay in) has a special attachment to our ‘The GDP E.P.’ 7" – it was the first bit of vinyl he bought! You can read about it here: Anyway, we’re not allowed to leave in the morning until we do a version of ‘I’m Tanked!’ in the kitchen – me on vocals, Simon on ‘mouth drums’ and Mint on ‘mouth guitar’. We didn’t play it last night and Miff’s feeling bereft. It’s daft but a pleasure to be asked. We love Sheffield, it’s becoming as popular with THE DOMESTICS as Manchester, which we also love. Actually, we rarely see the actual places but the people are great.
SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER - Santiago Bar, Leeds
Discover that John from VOLUNTEERS has woken up woth a frozen shoulder. He has his arm in a carrier bag sling (another interesting fact is that John is a black belt in various martial arts – had no idea!). Anyway, every band now has a member in pain but we solider on like the pros we are (ahem).
Leeds. We arrive a little early. Find some food then head to the venue. Venue’s not even open. Bit concerned. It’s in a shopping arcade with a giant mental clock where slightly racist representations of different nations pop out on the hour. There’s only so much skidding about on the tiled floor we can do before we’re bored. No poster on the window. More concern. We have a long drive home through the night and we’re all knackered form the previous 3 days’ happenings. Maybe we should cut out losses.
Aha! Lee the promoter shows up and our despondency lifts somewhat! He plays in AUTOPSY BOYS (check them out too) and they’ve been filming a video today, hence the delay. Anyway, it looks like it’s going to be a repeat of the Cambridge date but actually a decent amount of people end up coming through the doors for a Sunday night and the whole thing is pretty damn good in the end. BOYCOTT THE BAPTIST open in full nun regalia as always. I bloody love these boys. Next time we play together I’m doing a FEAR cover with them. As a band they always bring DROPDEAD to mind, although there are clearly a number of other influences at play here. It’s fast, loud and noisy…and really great. That’s all you need to know. They’re also going to be on the ‘Haiku Fucks’ 7" comp. The three EAHC bands play. All sound good even though we’re pretty fatigued one way or another.
The bands part ways for the drive home through the night and vow that we should do the same next year so look out for the EAHC Tour coming through your town in 2015!